Joining the climate movement, I truly didn’t know what to expect. But after having had the opportunity to participate in different spaces like the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), School Strike for Climate (SS4C), and various groups at the University of Sydney, I’ve learned many lessons about organising that I’d never thought about before.
Having the privilege to organise is often associated with being a leader or taking authority. However, I’ve learned that the ability to build a network is much more important. Making sure that you and those around you have put in their share of effort is much more efficient when the group is comprised of a strong and non-hierarchical network of people. Networking and relational organising are key to a successful movement, more so than being a “leader”.
Being part of a youth movement where most people are under 18 and trying to balance HSC assessments, work and social life had some limitations. We faced difficulties with filing police reports or knowing that our target audience often needed their parent’s permto attend our actions. Leaving high school and moving into the university space feels like an entirely new world of activism. I have met people with far more autonomy to make decisions for themselves without the weight of family pressures, and in many cases, more knowledge on the climate crisis itself. It’s exciting to see so many different ideas and recognise the intersectionality of the climate movement with issues of race, gender, economics and sustainability all merging into one. I’ve since realised that working together with similar movements around us and tapping into different demographics is a crucial part of mobilisation.
Another important lesson which applies to any space of organising is that self-care must come first. The fight for climate action can only come from sustainable activism — putting mental health above all. This can be trickier when organising in high school due to the lack of flexibility, however, in university, it fortunately exists. But ultimately in any space, burnout culture is real and prevention is certainly better than cure.
In the past couple of months during this pandemic, organisers have also had to learn the hard way that flexibility is crucial. Although online activism has always existed, shifting our major actions and training online while making sure the level of engagement is the same has been difficult. On the other hand, being forced to seek alternate ways of organising has exposed the inaccessibility of activism previously done, especially to disabled communities. Those in regional and rural areas are now able to accelerate their journey in the climate movement with a simple click of the button. It’s all about building new opportunities out of the many challenges we face.
Finally, through organising in the climate movement, I’ve learnt that it’s not just about fighting for climate action, but for climate justice. It’s not about having a strike with a few demands for the government, but instead about showing solidarity with First Nations communities, workers and people on the frontlines of the climate crisis. While it can be overwhelming sometimes, I’m excited to use these lessons to better my organisational skills as I continue on my journey in the movement.